Mesquite-grassland ecotones in the Chihuahuan Desert

TitleMesquite-grassland ecotones in the Chihuahuan Desert
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication1999
AuthorsBeck RF, McNeely R.P., Gibbens, Robert P.
EditorE. McArthur D, W. Ostler K, Wambolt CL
Conference NameProceedings: Shrubland Ecotones
Date PublishedAugust 12-14, 19
PublisherU.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Conference LocationOgden, UT
ARIS Log Number098706
AbstractMany plains and uplands of the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico are in transition from perennial desert grassland to a mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa)- dominated shrubland. On the Chihuahuan Desert Rangeland Research Center north of Las Cruces, from 1982 to 1996, mesquite aerial cover increased from 1.9 to 4.5% and density increased from 123 to 176 plants ha-1, with recruitment averaging 3.5 plants ha-1yr-1. Shrubs encroach into grasslands by individual plants becoming established and, over time, creating patches of mesquite. These patches expand into islands of mesquite with a greater biodiversity than the surrounding grasslands. The mesquite islands eventually coalesce into the mesquite "front" and biodiversity decreases. Thus, the current grass-shrublands may best be considered as ecotones, both spatially and temporally.